The Lost Years: Chaos by Djinn

Kirk watched as Chris tensed...again. She didn't relax until they had passed the gang of young toughs who were hooting at her.

"You come this way every morning?" she asked.

He nodded. "I guess I just blend better."

She glanced over, looking pointedly at his uniform. "Why, yes, Admiral Kirk, you do blend in here." She started to grin.

"What?"

"I think you've got some sort of glamour thing going."

He laughed, running his hand over his hair as if smoothing it down. "Well, I know I'm pretty but..."

She bumped up against him and he caught her hand. "I mean a spell, you big goof. That kind of glamour. So they don't even see the uniform."

He frowned. "New word for me. Where'd you hear it?"

"Lori."

"Before or after you kissed her?"

"I didn't kiss her this time."

"Okay. Did she kiss you?" He laughed. It was a joke...he thought.

"Amazingly not. It was a no-kiss encounter." She gave his hand a squeeze before dropping it.

He had a feeling she wanted to have hers free to fight. "Well, that's a relief. I thought I was going to have some competition."

"Never that." She smiled softly.

They were getting into dangerous territory. He sighed, and she shot him a look. He shook his head and walked a little faster.

"It's not a crime to admit what we feel," she said softly.

"But it's not smart. You know why I can't"--he saw her look and amended the word--"won't. And you're going away."

"I don't have to."

He exhaled slowly. "You were the other thing Nogura tempted me with."

She looked down. "You didn't tell me that."

"I sure didn't, did I?" He knew his smile was grim.

She looked over at him. "Why not?"

He closed his eyes for a moment. "Because I think you should go."

"Oh."

He reached out for her hand again. "And I want you to stay."

She stopped walking, turned to him. "I think you're making this way too hard on both of us." She saw his face and held up her hand. "No. I get to say this. I'll stay. I'll gladly stay. All you have to do is say the word." She moved closer. "Sir? Is the word given?"

He could feel her energy pushing at him. Had been able to feel it ever since they'd done the spell to hide the Kirsu ring. It was less intense than right after the spell, but still there--even their energies were attracted to each other. He took a step back. "No, Chris. The word is not given."

She closed her eyes. "Okay." She swallowed hard then opened her eyes. Her look was cool and professional. The slayer, not the woman he loved. She turned and walked away quickly. In the wrong direction.

He hurried after her, turned her gently. "This way." He leaned in, checked to see if she was crying.

"I'm okay." She sounded more resigned than disappointed. But her eyes looked suspiciously bright.

"Had to try?"

She shrugged.

He wanted to reach for her hand but decided it was a bad idea. "We're almost there," he said softly.

"Good."

He turned into the motel, saw that Weasel was still in the office. "That's him."

"Hmm."

He smiled at her tone. "And what does that mean?"

"Just 'hmm.'"

Kirk smiled wider. He'd been trying to figure out what Weasel would call Chris. He doubted it would be anything that pleased her. He led her into the bright office.

Weasel looked up. "Hey, Mac. You're early, why don't you and your friend go on down to the room." He grinned. "Maybe you could try to get through the Caverimics shield while you wait."

Kirk noticed he hadn't looked at Chris. "Everything okay?"

"What? Oh yeah. I've got a late arrival coming in who I have to wait for. She won't be long."

"And I should try the shield, huh?"

"Let's see how much you've learned." Weasel grinned but he looked distracted.

"Okay." Kirk turned to Chris. "Room thirty-eight."

She shot Weasel a suspicious look, then let Kirk push her out of the office. "What did he mean that he had to wait? Doesn't he have any help?"

Kirk thought back. "Yeah, there's a kid who relieves him at five."

She checked her chrono. "Well, it's past five now. Where is he?"

Kirk shrugged. "Late, I guess. What's the matter?"

She smiled slightly. "You'll laugh."

"No, I won't."

"Magic--other than yours--gives me the creeps."

He began to laugh.

"See, I told you you'd do that. I do know you, Mister." She grinned at him.

"I know you do." He stopped at room thirty-eight. "So you just don't like magic?"

"No, it makes my skin crawl. And not in a good way." She laughed. "Not in a hide the necklace way." Her grin was pure seduction again.

"Chris..." He shook his head as he keyed open the door.

She laughed. She tried to go into the room but he held her back.

"It's shielded."

She reached out gingerly. Her hand seemed to be pushed back. She touched the door again, harder this time, and her hand was bounced back harder.

"Does that make your skin crawl?"

She smiled. "I meant the idea of magic more than coming in contact with it. I guess because it's the one thing I can't fight." She reached out again, moving her finger so softly that she could trace a pattern even as the shield nudged her away. "To be honest, all I feel is the force pushing me back, not that it's magic. It could be a regular force field for all I know."

"Well, let's see if I can get it open. Watch my back?" he asked her. He was used to trying this with Weasel standing behind him.

"Do you even have to ask?" She moved aside, seemed to become even more alert than she had been on their walk over. If that was possible.

"Don't want anything to happen to me?"

"As a matter of fact, no."

He nodded, turned to the door. Closing his eyes, he relaxed, grounded as Weasel had taught him. Outside like this, he could feel the power of the Earth pulsing underneath the concrete. The power of the sky so dark above him. He kept his eyes closed and tried to feel the energy pattern guarding the door. It slowly came into detail, a web-like series of tracings pulsing with red and yellow.

This was as far as he'd ever gotten. Weasel had refused to give him even a hint of what his next step should be. He knew he wasn't strong enough to overpower it. The magic would just fight back. He watched the web for a moment, found the changing colors soothing. Red, yellow, red, yellow. He let himself fall into the colors, become the colors.

He was suddenly aware of a small flare of identical color coming from his hands. He slowly held them up, watched as the colors changed in tandem with the colors on the shield. He held his hands out, pushed them against the web and felt it pull away at his touch, leaving an opening big enough for Chris and him to walk through.

"Chris?" He could feel her turn toward him. "The shield is down, walk through the middle of the opening, step at least five inches up and keep your head that far away from the top of the frame.

Eyes still closed, he saw her walk through the opening, her body nothing more than patterns of light--energy, her energy at its most basic level. She was all colors, many of them dark. It didn't surprise him. He knew how grim her life had been, supposed that had colored--literally--how she was and who she was.

He followed her through the door, then said softly, "Don't turn around. Just hold still for a moment."

He traced her energy, concentrating on the dark places. Weasel had said he could tell when something was evil or not. Could he do that? There was darkness inside her, but was it evil? He relaxed even more, let whatever had formed the colors coming from his hands have free rein. As he traced the lines of her energy, he could feel everything about her--bravery, pain, humor, love, and yes, darkness. But it was not evil, it was something different. It was the slayer inside her, the one who brought death to the monsters. But it was also something at odds with the slayer. Something self-destructive, something that didn't want to fight anymore. He wondered if he had read her this way right after she had run away, if this darkness would have been all he'd have seen. Now it was just a small part of who she was. The slayer part of her was much more pervasive.

As was the loving part of her.

"Um, whatever you're doing. It feels really strange." Chris moved restlessly.

"But he's doing a damned good job of it," Weasel said behind them. "Guess you figured out what I meant?"

Kirk opened his eyes, saw that Chris had already turned, her look guarded, even wary. He could tell that she didn't trust Weasel.

Weasel had turned to the door, was building the shields back up. He glanced over at Kirk and grinned. "Nice job on the shield by the way. You could have built it back the same way from this side. A handy thing to know if you ever need to get in without someone noticing the lock's been jimmied." He winked at Chris.

Kirk glanced over at her; her look was grim.

"Tough room." Weasel laughed to himself. "Don't like me much, do you, Missy?"

Kirk held back laughter at the name. That one was sure to piss her off.

"Name's Christine."

"Yeah, well, Mac here will tell you, I have issues with names." He turned away from the door, got close--too close--to Chris. "You can relax. I'm on your side."

She didn't move. "That remains to be seen. Who was it you were waiting for?"

"That's none of your business."

She stepped closer, their noses were nearly touching. "I'm the local slayer. That makes it my business."

Weasel glanced over at Kirk. "You really like your chicks this aggressive? Me, I prefer something a little softer." He looked back at her. "There's a non-violence spell in effect here. You can't start anything." He grasped her arms, moved her back a bit, then stepped around her.

"You are one ballsy man," Kirk muttered as he followed Weasel down the staircase to the workroom.

"It's like with a dog. You can't show any fear," Weasel said, loud enough for Chris to hear from behind Kirk.

"Generally speaking, it's bad policy to goad a dog," Chris said, in an equally loud voice that carried to Weasel. "Or a slayer."

"Hon, do you get along with anyone?" Kirk glanced back at her and winked.

She rolled her eyes.

"And you," Kirk said, as he touched Weasel on the shoulder. "Quit baiting my friend."

"Why'd you bring her again?"

Kirk knew Weasel had not forgotten that they needed her help with the spell he wanted to use against David. Weasel never forgot anything, much less something so out of the ordinary.

Weasel pointed to the comfortable chair. "Sit, missy."

"She's not going to be very helpful if you continue to antagonize her." Kirk looked at Chris's face. Her expression was tight, uncomfortable.

"Well then, what's a good name? Doll? Babe? Should I call her Hon like you do?"

"Try Slayer if you can't use my name." Chris glared at Weasel, but the look seemed to include Kirk.

"Slayer it is." Weasel picked up the small glass ball he and Kirk had been working on. "Do you know what this is?"

"Looks like an orb. I don't have much luck with those."

Kirk noticed she made no move to touch it, barely looked at it.

"Yes. I understand that's true."

Chris glared at Kirk.

"He didn't tell me, Tolvar did. We were gossiping at lunch one day." Weasel laughed. "It's an orb all right. But not the kind you're used to. It's called an Orb of Thesulah. They used to be quite rare. Until it was discovered that the family that made them was keeping the quantity low to increase demand and price. They were 'persuaded' to increase production." He rubbed the clear glass ball gently, and a dim light began to form, followed by some kind of smoky vapor that began to swirl inside the orb.

"What does it do?"

Weasel glanced at Kirk. "You didn't tell her?"

"You said I shouldn't."

"But I wasn't sure you'd follow that instruction." Weasel gave him a pleased smile. "I'm proud of you, Mac. And not sure how you got her to come without a better explanation than 'just because.'"

Chris stared up at him, her face stony. "He said 'please.'"

"Ah." Weasel handed Kirk the orb, then knelt down in front of Chris. "I know you don't trust me, or even particularly like me. But your friend does, and you're going to have to trust his instincts. Can you do that?"

She stared at him for a long moment, then nodded slowly.

"Grudging but still the right answer." Weasel reached for her hands, moving slowly, deliberately, as if Chris was a dog who might bite him. "We're using the Orb to conjure something that might stop your vampire long enough for you to use your weapon. It was your friend's idea and it's a good one. Unfortunately, he doesn't have enough memories to properly build the image."

"Image?"

"Of the girl we want to conjure."

Chris looked up at Kirk. "Laura?"

He nodded.

"Why didn't you want him to tell me?"

Weasel had his eyes closed. "Because she is fresh now, fresh in your mind and you have no chance to overthink this." He let go of her hands, reached out for the globe.

Kirk set it gently in his hand, and Weasel put it in Chris's hand, then closed her other one over it. He then stepped to her side, nodding at Kirk to take the other side. He put one hand on Chris's head, the other on top of her hands. Kirk did the same.

"Close your eyes. Remember her. Think of her. Any memory that catches your fancy. What she looked like. What she sounded like. How she acted."

Kirk could feel the orb heating up, even with his hand on the outside of theirs. He could hear snatches of Laura's laugh, see her red hair shining in the sun, saw it the last time, matted and covered with the blood of slayers and the dust of vampires. He heard a sob, realized it was from Chris.

He started to let go but Weasel said softly, "No. Let her feel it."

Kirk had a vivid image, Laura lying on Chris's bed in her quarters on the Enterprise, a mischievous look on her face. Then she gave Chris a warm hug before jumping into the portal.

Then the scene changed. Laura wasn't smiling anymore. She was lying on the ground, her insides leaking into the bloodstained fields. She was brave, so brave. Dying. She died, holding tightly to Chris's hand.

He suddenly felt a twinge of pain--from the orb.

"She's squeezing too hard. She'll shatter it. Make her stop," Weasel said.

"Chris?" Kirk began to stroke her hair, never breaking the connection between them as he let his hand roam, trying to reach her. He slid his other hand lower, so he could get to her without Weasel's hand in the way. "Chris. It's okay. Ease up on the orb. They're just memories. It's over."

She took a ragged gasp of air, and her eyes flew open. She stared down at the orb like it was some kind of parasite. "Get it off of me."

Kirk's tightened his grasp on her hand, afraid that she'd throw the thing away from her. "It's okay." He turned her head toward him, ran his hand down her cheek. "It's okay, Chris. You're on Earth, not on Vega Hydra."

She was breathing hard, as if she'd fought an army of vampires. Why had he thought this was a good idea? Losing Laura must have been part of what made her run. What the hell had he been thinking?

"Let go, Mac," Weasel said, gently prying Chris's hands from the Orb. The thing seemed stuck to her skin.

"Get it off," she said again.

Weasel worked it free, then carried it to the table, setting it on a stand. He said a few words over it and the smoke disappeared, and the light--much brighter now than it had been--faded away.

Kirk knelt down. Chris was shuddering and her eyes were unfocused, filled with some deep horror. A tear ran down her cheek. Then another.

"Here," Weasel said, his voice much gentler than it had been. "This will warm her up." He wrapped a throw around her shoulders. Kneeling down, he took her hands in his, began to chafe them. "It's okay, Christine. You did very well." He looked up at Kirk. "You didn't tell me the girl practically died in her arms."

"I didn't know. I was with Spock." Kirk looked down. What had he done?

Chris was still shaking. Weasel pulled her gently to her feet, then looked at Kirk. "Sit down." Once he sat, Weasel pushed Chris into his arms. "Hold her. Warm her up." He tucked the throw around her, found another blanket and put it over her legs. "I'm going to make her something hot to drink.

Kirk pulled her close, felt her arms steal round his neck. She seemed to relax, nestled closer to him, sobbing now.

"Sweetheart, I'm sorry. I'm an idiot. I should have warned you."

Weasel looked over at him. "If it makes you feel any better, we got what we needed in spades. Nothing wrong with her ability to visualize." He smiled grimly, then went back to the herbs he was mixing.

Kirk stroked her hair, pulling her closer to him. She'd stopped shaking and pulled away a little to look at him. Her look was so haunted, so deeply hurt. He leaned in, his lips soft on hers. He only meant to kiss her gently. A friendly kiss. A comforting kiss. But she pulled him closer and her lips were cold and he wanted to warm them up. The kiss deepened, their mouths opened, and he began to rub her back, his hand moving up under her uniform top.

"Well, that's one way to warm her up, Mac. You want to use the room upstairs?"

Kirk pulled away slowly.

Chris was staring at him, her eyes no longer quite so lost, but not completely normal yet. She leaned in, kissed him gently, then said softly, "He doesn't want to use the room."

Kirk thought he had never heard her sound more sad.

She sighed and cuddled back against him, whispering, "You might want to move your hand?"

He pulled it out from under her top.

Weasel walked over with the tea, handing it to her before laying his hand on her forehead. She didn't seem to mind his touch but she didn't look at him.

He turned her chin gently so she had to meet his eyes. "I am sorry. If I'd known how powerful this would be, I'd have prepared you for it."

She took a breath, the sound was still ragged. "Maybe it's better that you didn't. For it to work with David, it's going to have to be the real thing."

He smiled, let go of her face. "This is true." He glanced over at the orb. "Tomorrow, Mac, we'll work on how you're going to use it."

"Why can't you do it?" Chris asked. "You're the big magician, right?"

Weasel smiled at her. "I can't. Your buddy here has to do it."

She looked at Kirk, then back at Weasel. "But why?"

Kirk suddenly wondered why he hadn't asked that.

"Because I can't."

"But you're his teacher. You're more powerful. You can."

Kirk had a feeling she was glaring at Weasel, giving him the slayer stare.

Weasel sat down on a stool, stared at the floor. "I can do magic here. At the motel. But nowhere else."

"That's bull," Kirk said. "That morning in the morgue. With Carl. You did--"

"--I did nothing. You did it, Mac. I just told you what to do." Weasel shook his head. "I'd be no use to you at all out there." He laughed, the sound was extraordinarily bitter. "Here's some free advice: Never piss off The Powers That Be."

"I don't understand," Kirk said.

Weasel waved his arms around, seemed to be encompassing more than the room. "This place is a dimensional way station. I'm the station master. I have been ever since I thought I didn't need to listen to the Powers. They showed me. They put me in charge of this rat trap." He grinned at Kirk. "Yeah, you sure called it."

"And you can't do magic outside of it?"

Weasel shook his head. "If I want to wield magic, I have to do it here. I have extremely limited reach outside the motel--a couple of meters or so."

"So you're trapped?" Chris asked.

"I can leave anytime I want. But I'm normal out there, worse than normal. I'm diminished." He stood up. "I've got to go check on that new arrival. She can be a bit tetchy."

"Who are they? These arrivals?"

Weasel smiled. "Beings in need of a little rest. Working for the powers. They're safe as long as they're here. Free to relax, let down their guard and sleep, take a swim, whatever the motel offers...which admittedly isn't much. But sometimes clean sheets and not having to be afraid are more than enough to make a vacation." He stood, walked over to them. "Drink up," he told her.

She finished her tea, handed him the cup. "Thanks."

He touched her hair. "I am sorry."

She nodded, watched him as he walked out. Kirk ran his finger along her cheek and smiled when she turned to look at him.

"I'm sorry too."

She nodded. "I know you'd never hurt me intentionally. You just didn't think to ask."

"I should have."

"He told you not to."

Kirk nodded. Yes, Weasel had told him not to, and he'd followed his instructions blindly. Was that good?

Chris shook her head. "It's done, Jim. Just hold me until I'm warm again?"

He nodded, tucked the throw around her more securely.

"It was a nice kiss," she said softly.

When he looked at her, she grinned.

"You must be feeling better," he said, unable to work much of a smile up himself. If it hadn't been for him, she wouldn't have been feeing bad in the first place.

She nodded, closing her eyes and relaxing against him.

He held her, watched her sleep until it was time for him to wake her up. His leg fell asleep and his arms ached, but it seemed a small price to pay after what he'd put her through.

------------------------

Christine glared at Uhura as she tried to keep up with her. "Why are you here, Ny?"

"Because our good friend and former boss said he was worried about you. And Nogura called a late meeting, or he'd be here too." Uhura sighed. She didn't like this any better than Christine did. "You do seem a bit on edge."

"Really?" Christine seemed about to say more, then suddenly turned, scanning back the way they had come.

"What is it?"

Christine shook her head. "Something's out here with us."

Uhura looked around. "Wharton?"

Christine shook her head. "Not him. Not a vampire." She frowned. "It's weird. I get a feeling like we're being watched, and then it goes away." She stared at the bushes, as if willing something to rise up out of them.

Footsteps sounded on the walkway behind them and they both turned. A young woman was coming toward them, holding a bunch of dead flowers in her hand.

Uhura could see Christine tense.

"What are you doing?" her friend asked the girl.

"Visiting a grave. What do you think I'm doing?" The young woman dumped the dead flowers into a bin. "Who died and made you queen of the cemetery?"

The girl was only about sixteen, Uhura decided. But she was wearing a lot of makeup and looked older. The look worked until she opened her mouth. Her attitude screamed bratty teenager.

Christine suddenly pulled out a cross and laid it against the girl's bare arm.

Her skin didn't sizzle.

She looked down at the cross, shot Christine a look rife with disgust, and jerked her arm away. "You are a freak, lady." She hurried down the path toward the entrance.

"Well, she sure summed up my existence. I'm a freak." Christine shoved the cross back in her pocket. She sighed. Then she looked off to her side. "Now, it's David."

"Where?" Uhura looked around but saw nothing.

"In the bushes, to the left of that rhododendron." The light colored flowers glowed white in the lamplight. "Hello, David. We see you."

Uhura still couldn't see him, not until he stepped out of the bushes. "Hello, Christine. Ah and Nyota, isn't it? I'm sorry I had to leave our last meeting so hastily."

"I'm not."

He laughed. "I do like you. Are you seeing anyone currently? Because if not, I'd love to get my name on your dance card."

"I'm seeing someone. And I don't dance."

"Pity." Wharton smiled; it was a calculated smile. "Where is he, by the way? Your beau?"

Uhura could feel her face fall. Len had been due back in a few days, but he'd called earlier to tell her he was extending. M'Benga needed him; the sick and wounded needed him. She hadn't asked him if it mattered that she needed him. He wouldn't be home until just before she was due to ship out. She'd been hard pressed to find a logical reason why he should give up doing something that made him feel good. Something that helped so many others. Especially when she was leaving him very soon. So she'd said she understood. But it still hurt.

"Hit a nerve, did I?"

Christine looked at her, confused.

Uhura shook her head. "I'll tell you later." She glared at Wharton. "It's none of your business."

"Too bad. I'd love it to be. You're a very exciting woman."

Christine shot her a look laced with some dark amusement. "I don't know whether to be jealous or not?"

"Not." Uhura said.

"You know Dracula had his many wives, I'd be happy to reinvigorate that tradition. You two would be a wonderful start." He laughed. "Maybe we can add that cute little werewolf." He made a growling noise.

Christine shook her head. "I think not."

Uhura forced her thoughts back from the naughty place they'd just gone and realized Christine was staring at her. "Right. Not interested."

Wharton laughed. "So I assume you aren't just out here for your health? Looking for me, were you?" He leaned in, a conspiring look on his face. "Or were you looking for a vampire you could actually slay?"

"Haven't seen many of your fledglings lately, David. You run out of bad guys to turn?"

He shrugged. "I'm not the cold blooded killer you deem me, Christine. It pains me to think that you hold me in such disregard."

"Right." Christine touched her pocket, as if reassuring herself that the stake was still in there.

Uhura knew she had one of the phasers Kirk had insisted they all start carrying in her other pocket.

"Besides," Wharton said with a smile. "There are plenty of older vampires around for you to take on." His smiled turned mocking. "We've gone over why they're here."

Uhura looked at Christine, her turn to be confused.

"There aren't any other slayers here, David. Emma told me."

"And Emma is such a tower of truth." He grinned at Uhura, as if the two of them were in on some big joke. "Her watcher is nothing like the other watchers, you see. She'd never lie to Christine."

"I trust her."

"And we've been over this, Christine." Wharton was walking backwards as Christine advanced.

Uhura followed along, feeling a bit helpless to fully understand the dynamic between these two.

Wharton spun around, pulling out a stake as he did it. "Time to pull out that pretty crossbow, my dear."

Christine didn't even argue with him. Uhura thought that was a bad sign, knew she was right when she saw four vampires moving across the lawn toward them.

Wharton turned to her, "Do you have a stake?"

She nodded, pulled it out.

"I hope you know how to use it."

She grinned as bravely as she could. It had been a long time since she'd admitted to anyone that she was afraid. It still embarrassed her that, when she was younger, she'd seemed to have no internal censor. "I can hold my own." Her words came out a lot ballsier than she felt.

"Just stay back," Christine said. "Let us handle it."

"Not a problem," Uhura muttered, backing up against a tree.

Christine loaded a bolt in the crossbow, let it fire. The vampire dodged and it caught him in the shoulder. He screamed in pain but didn't stop walking.

Christine loaded another bolt.

Wharton looked over at her. "Losing your touch, darling?"

"Oh, shut up. You should have seen the shot I made a few nights ago."

"I did." He smiled, an odd smile. "It was beautiful."

Christine seemed about to say something but the vampires charged. She and Wharton met them, arms and legs flying out in hard punches and kicks. The smallest vampire tried to rush around Wharton, toward Uhura, but Wharton tripped him, kicking him hard in the ribs even as he dodged a bone-crushing kick from one of the others.

Christine knocked her vampire off his feet, followed him down and was about to stake him when the vampire she'd shot kicked her off his buddy. She turned the fall into a roll, was up to meet him as he charged at her. She kicked high, inhumanly high, jamming the crossbow bolt in deeper. He roared with pain again as she landed on her feet. Her stake flashed and he exploded into dust.

But the one she'd thrown to the ground was rising and he didn't turn back to Christine, he rushed Uhura. Christine saw him take off, was about to go after him when the smallest vampire also headed toward Uhura. Wharton was too busy to stop him, so Christine went in pursuit.

Which left Uhura to handle the one headed her way. She pulled out her stake, held it the way Christine had shown her. But the vampire stopped before he got too close. "You're no slayer. You don't smell right."

"You're not one to complain about smell, mister." She held up the stake. "I do know how to use this."

He moved in, and she tried to follow him but he was too fast. She brought the stake down, and felt it bite into flesh. Unfortunately, it was the flesh of his arm. He pulled the stake out and tossed it behind her.

"No more stakes?" He laughed. His breath nearly knocked her over as he grabbed her, pulling her in for the bite.

"Something better." She grabbed her phaser, held it to his shirt like Kirk had said to do. And watched as it caught fire. She pulled away from him.

The vampire screamed, hitting the ground and rolling. As the flames went out, she turned to look for her stake. It was just at the edge of the grass, and she leapt for it as the vampire yelled at her. Her fingers touched the stake and she picked it up, managing to turn as he fell onto her, and directly onto the stake.

He was dust. And the dust was settling all over her. She coughed. "Oh, god, that's disgusting." She saw Christine and Wharton walking up, and pushed herself to a sitting position. "Well, that wasn't fun."

Christine helped her up, gave Wharton a warning look when he reached down also. "I can take care of her."

"Nice move with this," Wharton said, bending down and handing Uhura the phaser she hadn't even been aware she'd dropped.

"We're not just whittling stakes anymore, David." Christine shot him a look.

"No. I don't imagine you are." He smiled at Christine. The smile was an odd one, seeming to be a mixture of pride and caution.

"We will take you down. Unless you give this up." She moved closer, was about to touch his arm but seemed to think better of it. "You're more than this vendetta."

He laughed. "No, I'm not. I was a watcher, after all." He smiled fondly at Christine, then turned to Uhura. "My dear, it was wonderful to see you again. If you'd ever like to have coffee..."

Christine turned Uhura toward the path home. "She would not like to. Not ever."

"A great pity." Wharton threw them both a courtly bow. "You go home now. I'll patrol tonight." For a moment he appeared gawky, and unsure.

Uhura finally understood how Christine could have been fooled. Once he was gone, she said, "So that's what Thompson was like?"

Christine nodded. Then she looked at her, started to laugh. "He sure does seem taken with you. If I thought it would make any difference, I might use you against him."

Uhura nodded. "You would too. You'd leave me all helpless with him. Alone with his vampire awfulness."

Christine laughed harder. "Yeah, black hair and deep blue eyes being such a hardship." She touched Uhura's arm. "You did great, by the way." She pulled out her phaser. "I thought Jim was nuts when he wanted us to carry these. Now I can't wait to try beheading a vamp with it."

"Okay, I could have lived without hearing that." Uhura shook her head. "Can we go back to talking about Mister Tall, Deadly, and Handsome?"

"Why, Miss Uhura," Christine said with an exaggerated southern accent. "What would Doctor McCoy think?"

Uhura could feel her face fall again.

"Ny?"

"He's not coming back. Not for months."

Christine sighed. "I'm sorry."

Uhura shrugged. "I can't blame him. I'm going away and he's making a huge difference. But I miss him, you know?"

Christine nodded. She put her arm around Uhura's shoulder, pulled her close. "Men are so dumb."

Uhura just nodded, didn't want to let Christine know she was crying softly.

Christine's arm tightened around her. "So goddamned dumb."

-------------------------------------

Christine took another kick at the punching bag, then turned to watch Emma pace. "Are you going to tell me what Silver has planned?"

Emma reached into the chest of weapons, drew out a battle axe. "No."

"Unless you get a shot at David's head, that won't work against him. Not if he's wearing body armor."

"I know." Emma slammed the axe back down. It made a loud crashing sound as it hit the other weapons, and Emma closed her eyes as if in pain.

"Emma?"

She shook her head. '"It's just another migraine, Christine. Stop worrying."

"When this is all over, I'm going to do a full work up on you."

Emma turned to look at her. "Yes, fine. When this is all over." There was something odd in her expression, something dodgy.

"Emma, what the hell is wrong?"

"Other than the homicidal maniac who wants me and my colleagues dead, you mean?"

Christine turned back to the punching bag. "Yeah, other than that." She took a solid swing.

Emma came around to the other side, held the bag in place for her. "I'm sorry. I'm just..."

"Scared?"

Emma looked away.

"It's not wrong to admit that you're frightened." Christine shook her head at her watcher's look of stubbornness. "I won't think you're weak. Just human."

Emma sighed. "Oh, I'm human, all right." She shook her head. "Mortal."

"Yes. It's what separates us from the toothy menaces we fight, remember? Human, mortal. Vampire, immortal."

"I see you were paying attention to some of your early lessons."

Christine laughed. "Roger wasn't tolerant of my goofing off." She sighed. Roger hadn't been tolerant, period.

"Did you love him?" Emma held a hand up. "I mean as more than a friend."

Christine thought about it. "Roger was never my friend, Emma."

"But you cared for him?"

Christine shrugged, turned away from the punching bag and sat on the mat to stretch. Emma sat down near her.

Christine sighed. "After Anticles killed Marcus, after I hunted Anticles down and killed him for it, I was lost."

"Like you were this time?"

Christine thought about that. "No, I think this time was worse because I'd been there before."

"I can see that." Emma waited for her to continue. Finally said, "Go on."

"I'd been a good slayer, fairly obedient, which I'm sure is hard for you to believe." She laughed at Emma's expression. "Until I met Marcus, I didn't question things. I just did what Roger told me. Maybe because my own father wasn't very strong, it was nice to have a watcher father to take his place. I always knew where I stood with Roger. If he was displeased, there was no doubting it."

She sighed. It was so hard to balance what she knew now about Roger's role in the Cruciamentum with the kind if strict watcher, and later the tender lover, she'd known. "He was the one who urged me to try for college, he helped guide my curriculum."

Emma raised an eyebrow, "Yes, into exactly the field that would keep you in his orbit."

Christine looked down. "I guess."

Emma made a funny noise, and Christine looked up.

"You do realize that as a father figure, he should not have taken your relationship further? To one of romance, of sex." Emma shook her head. "It's deeply frowned upon by the council. I can't begin to tell you what an abomination it is. To betray that level of trust, to take it that direction--"

"--I was hurt and he took care of me. I wanted to hunt Anticles down and he helped me--he found out where the vampires were in direct defiance of the council's orders. He waited for me to come back, sure that I would return. And I did. I know you think it's wrong, but at some point, he fell in love with me. And I was grateful for that love." She looked down again. "I was never in love with him though. I just wanted to forget. To be taken care of for once, not to have to be the one doing the protecting. He offered me sanctuary, and I took it." She laughed as she met Emma's eyes. "And then he disappeared. So much for my sanctuary."

"The ship became your sanctuary while you searched for him, didn't it?"

Christine nodded. She knew what came next. "And Spock." She sighed. "The bond was the ultimate sanctuary."

"Yes, it was." Emma lay back on the mats, massaging her temples. "What was it like?"

Christine took a deep breath. "It was the most intimate touch, the most reassuring love. When we first bonded, I couldn't tell which part of what I was feeling was really me and which was Spock. It was unimaginable. To touch from within, to reach out and not just feel him reach back but to feel him encompass me with his love, his concern. I know he kept me sane just before the Gotterdammerung. I was teetering."

Emma nodded. "It must have been wonderful."

"It was." Christine wiped at her eyes. When had she started to cry?

"Why did you run away?"

Christine didn't answer.

"Why didn't you want it back?"

"I did. But I was afraid."

"Afraid of what?" Emma closed her eyes, laid her hand over them as if to block out the small amount of light coming through her lids.

"Afraid of losing that closeness again. Afraid I wouldn't be able to handle it, not after the orb."

"There has to be more to it than that." Emma opened her eyes, squinted at her. "Were you afraid you'd drown in it?"

Christine looked away.

"It was forever, wasn't it?"

Christine nodded.

"Who's your sanctuary now, Christine?" Emma sat up, stared hard at her. "Who keeps you safe?"

Christine began to smile. "I don't have a sanctuary. I have friends."

Emma patted her hand. "Very good, my dear." She leaned back again, closing her eyes. "Although the bond sounds nice in some ways. I imagine the sex was amazing."

"It was."

Emma nodded. "Vulcans always seem so stodgy."

"Coming from tweed-woman that's really saying something."

Emma stuck her tongue out. "I've had quite a nice sex life, thank you very much."

"Well, so have most Vulcans I've met." Christine studied her watcher for a moment. "It must feel like such a betrayal. That it's David, I mean. You loved him."

"Yes. I did." Emma pushed herself to her feet. "I'm hungry. Aren't you?" She pulled Christine to her feet. "Let's go out."

"Now?"

"To hell with David. I want to eat out."

"It's not a good idea, Emma."

Emma glared at her. "I don't care. I'm sick of being trapped inside these walls." She hurried up the stairs.

Christine was right behind her. As Emma got to the door, was about to open it, Christine pulled her back.

"No, Emma. No."

Emma's lip was trembling. "I'm going to go crazy if I have to stay in here."

"I'll stay here with you. We'll order some food in, all right?"

Emma seemed to be shaking. "I want to go out. I need fresh air."

"Tomorrow. When it's light. You can spend the whole day out. Just stay in now, yes?"

Their eyes met, and a battle of wills seemed to be fought in their stare. Finally, Emma looked away.

"Yes. Of course, you're right." Emma seemed to stand straighter; she walked slowly upstairs toward the comm unit. "What are you in the mood for? Chinese?"

"Chinese is fine. Whatever you want."

Emma shook her head. "It doesn't matter anymore." She closed her eyes for a moment, then she dialed up the menu for the nearest Chinese restaurant.

----------------------

Kirk was just getting ready to leave for the day when Commander Hall commed him. "Sir, there is a Lieutenant Chekov holding for you."

"Put him through." Kirk waited for a moment, then said, "Pavel? Tell me you've got something to show me?"

"Aye, sir. Can you meet us in firing range fourteen?"

"Us?"

Sulu's voice came over the comm. "Pav didn't think you would mind reinforcements, sir."

Kirk smiled. "Two heads are better than one. I can be there in twenty minutes."

"Affirmative. Chekov out."

Kirk shut off his lights and walked into the anteroom. He nodded at his aide. "Good night, Commander."

Hall nodded, busy composing something on his terminal.

Kirk stopped. "What made you take this assignment, Hall?"

"Sir?"

"Why are you here? In admin?"

Hall smiled. The expression looked genuine. "Sir, I'd scrub the floors if it meant serving under you."

Kirk waved the compliment away. The answer didn't help him much. It was exactly what someone would say if they were trying to appear to not be a spy. "And you feel fulfilled in this assignment?"

Hall's smile was less bright. "Sir, permission to speak freely?"

"Granted."

"You don't appear to trust me."

"What gives you that idea?"

"You don't talk to me much. I don't feel as though I know you any better now than when I started here. It's a bit disconcerting."

Kirk pursed his lips. "I'm sorry if I've made it seem I don't trust you. I'll try to do better."

Hall's smile was brilliant, but Kirk thought he saw a small note of triumph in the expression.

He hated not being able to trust his own aide. With a sigh, he nodded goodnight and went out into the late afternoon sunshine. The walk to the firing range was short and the day was pleasant.

He pulled out his communicator and paged Chris. She didn't answer, and he got her service. He decided not to leave a message.

He felt the small box in his pocket jab him in the ribs. He moved it slightly, so that it wouldn't poke him. The box was well-padded inside to keep the orb safe. Kirk yawned; he was still tired from what Weasel had shown him that morning. Although the spell seemed easy enough to execute, it was the prep work that had taken time. If he was going to be the one to use the spell, he had to put on the final touches. It had been exhausting...and exhilarating, like most of the work he did with Weasel.

The firing range came into view and he walked in, nodding to the ensign on duty. "Range fourteen?" he asked.

"Down that way, sir, third door from the end."

"Thanks."

"My pleasure, Admiral Kirk." The ensign smiled, a smile full of hero worship. Another fan.

Kirk still found it hard to get used to the idea that kids like the ensign were studying his exploits. Using them as discussion springboards in their Academy classes. It made him feel good--and old.

Range fourteen had the privacy lock on it. He rang the buzzer, stood in front of the ID slot.

The door opened. "Come in, sir." Sulu said, peeking into the corridor before closing the door again.

"Expecting someone, Hikaru?"

Sulu smiled. "No. But better safe than sorry."

Kirk laughed. "Why? We're not doing anything wrong." He looked at Chekov. "Are we?"

"Making a new weapon is irregular, sir."

"But not unheard of." Kirk grinned.

"Well. No." Chekov gestured toward the end of the range. "I hope that fits the specs?"

Kirk looked down the range. A mannequin, in body armor, stood roughly fifteen meters away. "That's the ticket."

"Sir." Sulu looked concerned. "You're not going to be using this on people, are you?"

"Well, not people in the normal sense of the word."

Chekov smiled knowingly. "I told you this has something to do with Christine. And the vampires we're not supposed to know about." He looked at Kirk. "Isn't that right, sir?"

"Something like that." He grinned. "So, show me how this works."

Chekov hefted the weapon, it was a little smaller than a phaser rifle. "Sorry, sir. We tried to make it smaller but we couldn't get the thrust we needed on the thermite rocket."

Sulu nodded. "We wanted it to be something you could carry without being noticed." He held up a violin case that had been modified on the inside to hold the gun. "Next best thing?"

Kirk laughed. "I'm a little old to be taking up orchestra." He nodded. "But good idea."

Chekov hit a switch and pulled open a compartment in the middle of the gun. "This is where you load your ammo." He reached into another bag, pulled out a very small rocket. "This goes here. Pointy end facing out."

Kirk shot him a look.

Sulu shook his head.

"I'm sorry, sir. I am used to dealing with idiots."

Kirk laughed. "No need to apologize, Mister Chekov. Pointy end out. What next?"

Chekov closed up the hatch, then hit a switch. The machine began to hum. "We wait for the weapon to charge. The launch feature is dependent on the weapon being fully powered up."

"How long does that take?"

"Two minutes max. Depends on how much charge is remaining."

Kirk nodded. "I can pre-charge?"

Sulu nodded. "It takes ten seconds to reach firing stage when fully charged."

A light on the side of the weapon turned from red to green, and the hum changed to a low whine. "It's ready," Chekov said, hefting it to his shoulder. "Point it where you want it to go. We have laser sites, as you can see on the target."

Kirk looked, a small red dot illuminated the heart of the body armor.

"Or you can turn it off." Chekov showed him the switch. "It's a squeeze trigger. Not terribly sensitive, but there's a bit of a kick. My shoulder is sore from our preliminary tests." He put the weapon down, turned it off and took the ammo out. "You try, sir."

Kirk loaded it up, turned it on, and waited for the light to go on. "Ready or not..." He lifted the weapon to his shoulder. He left the laser site on, letting it show him where Wharton's heart would be. Then he turned it off. No need to give Wharton any warning. And he was going to have to be able to target it by eye. "Just squeeze?"

"It helps to hold your breath," Sulu said. "And be ready for the kick."

Kirk took a deep breath, sighted again to make sure he was where he wanted to be, and squeezed the trigger gently. The weapon fired, the gun kicked hard into his shoulder, and the rocket flew down the range. It hit the body armor, dug in enough to puncture it, then the thermite warhead exploded, causing a bigger hole in the armor. Fire broke out, burning deep into the mannequin but none of the chemical mixture fell to the floor.

"Stays where you put it," Kirk said with satisfaction.

Chekov smiled. "I should think on a vampire"--he waited for Kirk's look, smiled when he got it--"it will burn faster. They seem to be fire averse?"

Kirk looked down at the gaping hole in the body armor, just over where the heart would be. "Even if it doesn't, we've got ourselves an opening. And that's what we didn't have before."

Sulu took the weapon from him and placed it in the violin case. There was room for three rockets, and he set those in and shut the case. "The rockets aren't particularly flammable under normal circumstances. You need something thermite hot or hotter to light the mix we came up with."

"This is great."

"We did our best, sir."

Kirk smiled. "And your best is damned good."

They both grinned.

Sulu handed Kirk the other bag. "More ammo. In case you need it."

Kirk took it but he had a feeling they'd get one shot, maybe two, if they were lucky. Of course, it wouldn't hurt to keep the weapon around. In case some vampire friend of David's came to call once Chris was gone.

He felt a pang. Forced himself to say it again in his head. Once Chris was gone. She was leaving. She'd be on his ship with these two and Uhura and Scotty. And he'd be stuck here.

His look must have reflected his thoughts because Sulu said gently, "Sir? Are you all right?"

Kirk nodded. "Just fine." He slung the strap for the violin case over his shoulder, hefted the ammo over the other one. "I feel like a pack mule." He grinned at them. "Thank you."

Chekov said, "It was nothing, sir."

Sulu nodded.

"It was everything. To know I can count on you." He smiled. "Enjoy yourselves on my ship," he said as he pushed the door button to get out. "Don't let Decker run her into a planet."

"Well, Hikaru will be steering, so it will be his fault, sir." Chekov laughed at Sulu's expression.

Kirk stared at them a moment, then smiled. "I had the finest crew a captain could want." Then he turned and hurried away.

---------------------------

Christine was about to leave on patrol when her chime rang. She smiled. Only one person could get through the security screener at the front door on his own. She opened her door and laughed when she saw the violin case Jim was carrying. "Taking up music in your spare time?"

"Funny." He set the case and another bag down and pulled her into a hug.

She let herself relax against him. "Not that I don't love this, but what's the occasion?"

He kissed her neck, then pulled away. "I still feel bad about that damn spell."

She shrugged. "Did it work?"

He nodded, patted his pocket. "One orb ready for action."

"Then it's all right." She smiled, nodded at the case. "Is that our baby?"

"It is. It cut a hole this big in some Starfleet body armor." He illustrated the size of the rip with his hands. "But it's got a kick like you wouldn't believe." He rubbed his shoulder.

She opened the case, pulled out the weapon. "How does it work?"

He ran her through the steps and she listened to the hum change tone, turn into a whine that meant it was ready. She switched the thing off, put it back in the case. Turning, she walked into her kitchen and stared out the small window that looked out on nothing but another building.

"You don't want to have to use it on him, do you?"

She shook her head, felt his arms come around her.

"What if he threatens Emma, Chris?"

"I didn't say I wouldn't use it on him. Just that I don't want to. He's fought with me." She leaned against him; the solid warmth of him was such a comfort. "He looks out for me."

He let go of her. "I know he does." She could hear him pacing behind her. "He told me to take you away from here."

"You can't. Not unless we take Emma, and she'd never go." She turned to look at him. "It'll be soon."

He nodded. "Maybe tonight?"

"Maybe." She exhaled slowly, trying to find some measure of calm. "He's going to have a surprise for us. It's his nature."

"Do you know what the watchers have planned?"

She shook her head. "Emma's intent on keeping me out of this."

"She should know better."

"Yes, she should." She walked toward him. "I think it's time we started shadowing her."

He frowned. "Even if that means that David is following us right to her."

"He already knows where she is. And if we don't follow her or Silver, then we'll miss the fight. I'd rather follow Silver, but he's keeping a low profile." She was embarrassed to admit she had no idea where Silver was staying.

"You want to start tonight?"

She nodded.

"Okay. Let's go." He grabbed the violin case and took a few extra rockets out of the bag, shoving them into his inside pocket.

She grabbed her crossbow and the container of extra bolts, then jammed a few stakes into various pockets. The phaser went into another pocket. She followed Jim out the door, then she ran back into the room and grabbed more stakes, pushing them up her sleeve.

"Premonition?"

She nodded, her face grim. She didn't know why she felt safer with more stakes. How many vampires did she think they might find? It was just David, wasn't it?

She followed Jim out; they walked quickly to Emma's townhouse. The lights were on low in the front room and they could see her moving, her shadow occasionally crossing the blinds.

Christine led him down the street, to a spot hidden by the bushes of the neighboring yard, secluded enough to watch. "This could get old."

He smiled at her. "Still beats the desk job."

She shook her head. "Find something else to do, Jim. Get back into space."

"Too late for that."

She studied him. The set jaw, the shuttered expression. "I don't have to go."

"Yes, you do. But life sure will be dull without you." He made a face. "Weasel will just have to come up with more challenges for me."

"I guess so." She sighed. "I didn't like him at first."

"He grows on you. Give him a chance."

She nodded, then looked down for a moment. "This is dumb, isn't it? Just lurking like this. What if nothing happens?"

He smiled. "You have a feeling about tonight, don't you?"

She met his eyes. Every slayer sense she had was going off full force. And it wasn't because David was around. For once, she didn't think he was following her. Maybe that was what was setting her off--not having him around?

He looked down the street. "I think it'll be tonight too."

She sighed. "Why can't he just go away?"

"He's as stubborn as they are. Why can't any of them walk away?"

"He's a vampire. I keep having to remind myself of that. He nearly killed Emma once already, he tried to turn me--not very hard, but he still bit me-- and he killed the watcher that was following me. He may be charming, and he may make sense. But he's not a good man."

Kirk just watched her.

"Jump in at any time."

He smiled, indicating she had the floor.

She rolled her eyes. "It's just that the watchers aren't good men either. Emma's different. And Peter. But the rest of them." She shook her head.

"Lesser of two evils then?"

"Maybe."

There was a long silence then he turned suddenly, looking down the street the way they'd come. "Chris? Did someone order an army?"

She looked out and felt her stomach heave, was afraid for a moment she'd be sick. Silver and three other watchers were in fact leading an army. An army of slayers.

"She lied." She started to move, toward Emma's townhouse.

Kirk caught her arm. "You don't know that."

"He told me, and I didn't believe him." She wrenched her arm out of his grasp, and strode angrily down the street.

She was just in time to see Emma come out of her house, an expression that looked much like the one Christine thought she must be wearing on her face. She turned, saw Christine walking toward her. "I had no idea," she said, as she walked toward her.

Silver stepped closer. One of the slayers shadowed him. It was the girl from the cemetery. The one who'd dumped the dead flowers.

"Now I know why you said I was a freak. It takes one to know one," Christine said.

The girl ignored her.

"Kevin, what the hell is this?" Emma was as angry as Christine had ever seen her.

"We're going to go deal with our little problem." Silver turned to look at Christine. "You are not welcome here."

"Tough. This is my city, she's my watcher, and like it or not, David's my responsibility."

Silver moved closer. So did his slayer.

Christine looked at the girl. "Don't even think of it."

The girl smiled. The expression was mocking. "Think you can take me, grandma?"

"She doesn't like cracks about her age," a familiar voice called from above them. David stood on the rooftop of Emma's townhouse. Grinning.

"David," Emma said, the word barely more than a breath.

"Hello, lover." He shook his head. "We aren't going to brawl in the street like common hooligans, are we, Kevin?"

"You know a better place, David?" Silver's voice was devoid of emotion.

"Why the cemetery of course. It's tradition." David winked at Christine. "Hello, darling."

"David."

"And you too, dear heart," David said with a laugh, blowing Kirk a kiss.

"Wharton." He didn't smile.

"You're on good terms with the vampire, grandma."

Christine resisted the urge to beat the cocky youngster's face in. She turned away, then lost her balance as the girl's foot kicked her legs out from each other. She fell to the pavement, the skin on her hand scraping as she caught herself and felt her wrist wrench. She ignored the pain, twisted and moved toward rather than away from the girl. She kicked out with one foot, then turned it into vicious scissor kick, knocking the girl's knee sideways. The other slayer fell hard. Tried to get up and fell back.

Christine pushed herself up, walked over and dragged the girl up by her collar. "Only a coward attacks someone when her back is turned." She looked up at David, remembering how she had thrown the stake at his back.

He laughed, as if thinking of the same thing.

The girl started to kick out and Christine threw her back, into the other watchers.

"Nice children you're raising, Silver. With friends like that, who needs enemies?"

"We're not your friends." The girl got up slowly. She stepped gingerly down, made a face but managed to walk on a knee that would have been broken had she been a normal person.

"Lynda, that's enough fraternizing." Silver waved her off.

She kept walking toward Christine.

"I said, that's enough." He stepped in front of her, stared at her until the girl backed off. Then he turned to Christine. "We don't need your help with this." He looked at Emma. "Are you coming?"

He didn't wait for her answer, just walked off, his army behind him.

"Emma. Don't go." Christine tried to block Emma's path. "He's lied to you. Let him fight this war. You stay here."

Emma touched her face, smiled tenderly. "You don't understand him, Christine. You never have."

"I don't want to."

Emma nodded. "I know you don't." She started after Silver. "I have to fight. This is where it ends."

Christine closed her eyes. Then she looked over at Kirk. "I guess we fight."

He touched the violin case. "I guess so." He fell into step beside her as they hurried to shadow Emma. "Although for the record, that many slayers seems like overkill."

"I agree." She wasn't sure body armor would save David when he was facing so many slayers.

They followed the grim and silent parade to the cemetery. As they walked away from the bustle of the main street, Kirk stopped. She followed his gaze and stopped walking too.

"Maybe it's not overkill," Kirk said softly.

An army of vampires waited for the slayers. David was nowhere to be seen.

"Damn him." Emma turned to Christine. "Keep an eye out."

"One step ahead of you," Christine said as she loaded her crossbow. "Let the junior league fight the newborns. I'm sticking close to you, Emma."

The slayers charged the vampires.

Emma turned and looked out over the melee. "You've already fought one Gotterdammerung. You don't need another."

Christine shook her head. "This isn't even close, Emma." She looked back at Kirk.

He was kneeling down and loading the weapon with one of the rockets, starting it up to charge. She could barely hear the hum with all the grunting of slayers versus vampires.

He looked up at her. "I can't really say. I was a little distracted through most of the fighting. Almost being turned and all."

"Right."

Silver walked over to her.

Christine moved away from him a bit. "Still just watching, Kevin? Don't you ever _do_ anything?"

His face was grim. "Chapel, we don't need you here."

"I beg to differ."

Emma stepped between them. "Leave her alone, Kevin."

His expression became softer as he looked at Emma, then he turned to Christine. "Go away."

"No."

One of the other watchers came up and handed him a crossbow. He turned and began to fire into the fighting, taking out several vampires.

"So you can fight."

"Yes, I can. Why aren't you doing the same?"

"Because she's smarter than you are, Kevin," David said from behind them.

They all turned. He wasn't there.

"What's the matter, your eyes going bad?" The sound came from the other direction now.

Kirk walked to a bench near where the sound was coming from. He bent down, dug around under the bench and came out with a small amplifier.

"Oh, very good, my friend." David laughed. "I'm afraid that's as close as any of you will get to me tonight. Have fun with your little war."

The sound of his cheery goodbye was nearly drowned out by the fighting going on around them.

---------------------------

"I heard there was a major skirmish in the cemetery last night?" Lori smiled at Kirk as she walked into his office. "You and your slayer have anything to do with that?"

"We were there. In a strictly non-combatant role." He studied Lori. Chris had said she wasn't the enemy. Why was his skin still crawling? Was he just allergic to werewolves? Or could Chris be wrong?

Lori was staring back at him, an amused look on her face. "You don't trust me. I can smell it." She leaned in. "But you aren't afraid of me. I like that so much. She's not afraid of me either."

"Chris isn't afraid of anything." Except sewers, he amended silently.

"I know. I saw that firsthand. I think she was willing to do something rather foolish for me and mine." Lori made a warning face at him.

He nodded. "She thought it best I not know the details."

"You being so gallant." Lori shook her head. "I can't wait forever for her to make up her mind."

"I'm afraid she's a little busy."

Lori made an impatient face. "It's not like this Wharton guy is an impending apocalypse. That I can see taking precedence. But one vampire?" She leaned in. "I could take him out, you know. With a little help."

Kirk met her stare. "Then do it."

She leaned back, blinked. "I'm constrained. If I could be sure of her willingness to share..."

He shook his head. "I can't push her."

"You mean you won't push her." Lori sighed. Then she suddenly tensed, her nostrils flared and she looked at him in something like panic.

Nogura poked his head in. "Ah, there you are, Lori." He walked over to her chair, put his hands on her shoulders. "You weren't hiding, were you?"

She laughed, looked up at him with a sweet smile. "Of course not, sir."

Nogura smiled, the look seemed proprietary. He squeezed her shoulders. Kirk felt his skin crawl.

Nogura looked over at him. He smiled, then let go of Lori. "Don't let me interrupt your conversation."

She smiled again. "We were just talking about the vampire-slayer rumble last night."

Nogura sat in the chair next to her. "There was a day when we wouldn't have seen such public brawling in our fair city. I expected better of the watchers." He looked over at Kirk. "I suppose Doctor Chapel was involved in some way?"

"It's complicated."

"Yes. Everything about her seems to be complicated to you." Nogura shook his head. "I've never met a more stubborn man than you, Jim. You want this woman." He looked over at Lori. "You've seen them together. What do you think?"

"Oh, they've got a thing."

"See. A thing. So simple." Nogura smiled. "Keep her here with you, Jim. It's such an easy concept for us to grasp, isn't it, my dear?"

Lori smiled at him easily. "Oh, yes."

Kirk watched her, surprised she could hide her fear, her hatred so well. But years lived under the man's thumb must have taught her to dissemble.

"Decker needs a CMO, Jim."

Kirk turned back to him, startled at the abrupt shift in the conversation.

Nogura laughed. "It's obvious you're determined to be noble and let her go. If that's the case, wouldn't you like to see her in a position of more authority?"

"CMO?"

"You don't think she's capable? As head nurse, she had a large part in running your sickbay. And she's a slayer. She's more than capable of leading others--we know she had a significant role in that dreadful battle on Vega Hydra." He leaned back. "Wouldn't you like to see her rewarded for all her hard work?"

Kirk was unsure what to say.

"I realize she may not be able to deliver Kirsu to me. But she knows enough about it to help lead the search for it. On the Enterprise. Decker won't question her, not if he knows she has my full support."

"You think she'll help you?"

Nogura nodded. "I do. But you have to help me persuade her that it's for a good cause."

Lori smiled. "It's a good offer. She languished as an ensign for so long. I've seen her credentials. They're impressive. This isn't that much of a stretch." She looked over at Nogura. "I can see Decker trusting her. He seems more comfortable with women then men."

Nogura nodded. "Matt's legacy."

Kirk felt his jaw tighten.

"I know, Jim. It's harsh, but I'm not wrong. I know people and Decker's an open book. You know it too. He's looking for meaning. He wants to find truth at the end of the journey. Truth, and light, and answers. He's not like us."

Or like you, Kirk wanted to say but bit his tongue.

"Chris would be good for him."

Kirk bristled at the way her name sounded coming out of Nogura's mouth.

Nogura got up abruptly. "Lunch, Lori?"

She stood up, smiled again. The expression again perfectly open. "I'm starved."

He laughed. "You always are, my dear." He looked at Kirk. "Join us?"

"I think Jim's lost his appetite, Hei."

Nogura grinned. "You need to grow a tougher skin, my friend. You make it so easy for me to play you." He turned and walked out.

Lori looked at him and mouthed, "Sorry." Then she followed him out.

Kirk closed his eyes, tried to roll out the tension in his shoulders. He hadn't slept well last night. Had been too keyed up after watching the slayers fight the vampires, after not joining in. He'd been surprised Chris could stand there and not dive in. But other than handing out a few fresh stakes, she'd stayed out of the fight. Just kept looking back and around them. As if David would jump out at them, try to hurt Emma.

And maybe she'd been right. She knew him better than any of them possibly.

The slayers had taken most of the vampires out. But not without casualties of their own. He'd seen three girls fall, one of them had laid on the ground, her head at an odd angle.

"Neck's broken," Chris had whispered to him. She'd looked away.

It was just one of her possible fates. To die like that. He hated that he thought about it. Her dying.

She'd already died once. McCoy had brought her back. And if he hadn't, LaVelle and her slayers would have.

Nobody would bring back the slayers who had fallen last night.

His comm unit buzzed. "Yes."

"Sir, there's a Mister Silver here to see you."

Kirk laughed softly. "Show him in, Commander." Kevin Silver? To see him?

Could his day get any weirder?

Kirk laughed. Of course, it could. Every Starfleet cadet knew the saying. Weird was part of the job...and his life was even weirder since he'd dived into the wonderland behind the magic mirror.

He didn't stand when Silver walked in.

Silver walked around the office, looking over the framed commendations, the medals. "Quite impressive, Admiral." He turned to look at Kirk.

He shrugged. "If you've seen one medal..."

Silver smiled. "There are some who say that about slayers. Yet I find each girl unique."

Kirk's expression was steely. "They stop being girls eventually, Mister Silver."

"Please call me Kevin."

"I'd rather not."

Silver sat down. He smiled. "You're very protective of Chapel, aren't you? I noticed that last night."

Kirk leaned forward, gave Silver his best dangerous smile. "I've heard Wharton's message. I've taken it in. I know about the Cruciamentum. I know that you've abused your powers with these _girls_."

Silver's face tightened. "We have traditions. They've held up for centuries because they work."

"Work? At what? Murdering innocent women?"

Silver shook his head. "I don't expect you to understand. You're not part of this. And you've had only her side of the story."

"Not true. She didn't tell me about your barbaric little test. Wharton did."

"He's hardly the voice of reason."

"Interestingly enough, I think he is." Kirk sighed. "His methods leave something to be desired. But his message is damned powerful."

Silver smiled, the expression was so clearly dismissive of anything Kirk might think.

"I assume you came here for a reason?" Kirk asked.

"I did. I want you to keep Chapel away from us."

"Me? Keep Chris away from you?" Kirk laughed loud. He imagined Commander Hall could hear him from the other room. "I don't tell her what to do."

"She is in the way."

"How so?"

Silver didn't answer, just rose and turned away.

"That's it? Keep her away. One silly order and you're gone?" Kirk laughed. "It's no wonder you're losing your grasp on the council."

Silver turned to look at him. "I will not lose my grasp on anything. But your slayer"--he put a dark emphasis on the word 'your'--"may make a very valuable colleague lose her grasp on reason."

"What?"

Silver sat back down. He seemed to deflate as he stared at the floor. "Emma."

"I don't understand."

"She was supposed to stay inside last night. I was going to leave a slayer with her. But she came out because of Chapel. As long as that slayer is out, Emma won't stay in."

Kirk sat silently, unsure what to say.

"Don't you see? She's what David wants most. His former ally--now his greatest enemy. After me." Silver looked up at him. "He nearly ripped her apart the last time. In front of me. Why do you think he did that?"

When Kirk didn't answer, Silver slammed his hand down on Kirk's desk.

Kirk jumped in surprise.

"Why do you think he did that?" Silver stood up, began to pace. "Chapel could keep her in, but she won't. She's too damned impulsive. She'll try to save David, and Emma will follow her because she loves them both."

Kirk sighed. "Does Emma know you love her?"

Silver glanced at him, shrugged. He suddenly looked very old. "I've never known."

"And you never wanted to tell her?"

"I'm the head of the council. I have duties and obligations. How I feel about Emma is irrelevant."

Kirk looked down.

"In any case, she loves David. She's never stopped loving him." Silver shook his head. "She's just wise enough to put it aside. She's a skilled counselor after all."

"I can't keep Chris away. She loves Emma. She'd feel she was letting her down to not be there...to protect her."

Silver got up slowly. "I'd hoped you might have some influence over her." He smiled softly. "She appears to listen to you. Lord knows, she never has to me."

"If you're looking for sympathy, you're looking in the wrong place. I'm solidly in her court."

Silver's smile faded. "Then stay the hell out of our way from here on out. If I see the two of you, it won't be just one slayer I send after you." Silver leaned in, put his hand on Kirk's arm. "I'm not someone you want to antagonize."

Kirk looked at Silver's hand. "I think, Mister Silver, that you'll find that I'm not a man you want to antagonize either." He closed his eyes, channeled fire the way Weasel had taught him. He couldn't manage a burst of energy much past a centimeter. In this case, that should do just fine.

He slammed his other hand down on Silver's arm and let the energy, which he'd coiled up like a spring, go. It leapt out of his hand, covering the small distance to touch Silver's skin. Hot energy, burning hot. Fire.

Silver yelped.

Kirk let go of him, giving him a tight smile. "Just a small demonstration of what I'm capable of." He tried to keep a straight face. Silver didn't need to know that he'd seen one of his few tricks.

The watcher's eyes narrowed as he jerked away from Kirk, cradling his arm, which was unmarked, but completely free of hair. "Magic. I don't hold with it."

"Spoken like one who could never manage to get it to work."

Silver turned on his heel and marched out.

Hall came in. "Sir? What is that smell?"

"Smell?" He smiled. For some reason, the odor of singed hair and sulphur didn't bother him at all.

-----------------------------------

Christine sighed in relief as she trudged up the steps of her apartment building. Rounds had been exhausting, and they'd had an emergency that had taken most of the night to treat. She'd been tired already from watching Silver's slayers take on David's vampires.

She still felt guilty for not helping, but it had been more important to protect Emma. She was not entirely sure Silver would. At least she'd brought those extra stakes.

She looked out into the night--morning really. The sun was nearly up. She hadn't meant to get home this late, had intended to be in before dark and back out again, staking out Emma's house with Jim. But when she'd been held up, he'd gone on ahead. She'd planned to join him hours ago.

When had she stopped worrying about him walking around in the dark alone? Was it because he was getting stronger with the magic? Or was it something else? He seemed stronger to her. Physically stronger. Nothing obvious-- although she knew he was working out at the gym. But something deeper. It could be just the confidence that magic gave him. He was more comfortable in her frenzied supernatural world and that showed.

But what if it was something else? What if Anacost's blood was making him stronger somehow? As far as she knew, no one had ever survived a near- turning the way he had. It might make him stronger. Might explain why he seemed to navigate in the dark as well as she did. Even Spock had occasionally tripped when they patrolled. But Jim never did.

She shook her head at her own strange musings. Jim was in good shape, had always been strong and competitive, and prided himself on being a hunter. Anacost's blood might flow inside him, but it hadn't changed him.

Except for the rare meat. She made a face. She preferred hers to not bleed when she ate it.

She unlocked her door, was immediately hit by an intensely sweet smell. A huge bouquet of white flowers waited for her on the dining room table.

"Hello, darling. How was your day?"

She whirled as David turned on the lamp by her chair. They both blinked in the sudden light.

"How the hell did you get in here?"

"Edna. Charming woman." He laughed. "I told her I was a cousin of William's. We do favor each other a bit. And who over here can tell English accents apart?"

"I'm going to kill her. Unless you already did it?"

"Kill such a helpful creature? Never. She seemed quite taken with me. Told me confidentially that she just doesn't understand how someone like you attracts such nice young men."

Christine bristled. "Jim is older than I am. For that matter, you all are."

He shrugged. "It's never too late to moisturize, dear." He smiled. It was a mocking smile.

"Here I thought you liked my looks."

"I do. Very much." He laughed. "And aren't you the vain one?"

She sat down. "David. What are you doing here?"

"The time for these charming get-togethers is running out." He leaned forward. "I miss you."

"Right."

He laughed. "I do. I miss being Thompson. I know I drove you nuts, but I enjoyed those interactions."

She smiled. Those innocent conversations seemed so far away now.

And they'd been far from innocent.

"Do you ever stop trying to screw with my mind?"

He leaned back with a smile. "Does Emma?"

"That's not what I asked."

He slowly stood up, held his hand out when she tensed. "I didn't come here to spin your head. I came here for truth. And to make you an offer."

"An offer?"

He nodded. "You've made me an offer enough times. The one where I give up my evil plan and come work with you and Jim. You'll be gone. And I don't know that Jim and I would really get on."

"Then go to Los Angeles. Work with Spike. And Angel."

He laughed. "Have you ever met Angel? Good lord, the man's an utter bore." He laughed again, this time more softly, as if to himself. "Gives dour a new meaning."

"But he fights the good fight." She thought her voice was annoyingly upbeat...and too tentative. She tried again. "And you'd like Spike. He's a lot of fun."

"Oh, yes. I imagine you think so." His grin was leering.

"I didn't mean you'd like him that way." She thought of the kiss he'd blown Jim the night before. "Although, maybe you might?"

He rolled his eyes. "I'm not going to L.A., Christine."

"Fine. Be that way." She stood as he took another step toward her.

"My offer's very simple. I turn you, and you come away with me. And I'll leave Emma and the others alone. We'll fight them your way." He took another step forward. One more and he'd be out of minimum safe distance.

She held up her hand, he stopped. "Let you turn me?"

He nodded.

"I can't do that."

"Why not?" His voice was seductive.

She was surprised to realize it had little effect on her anymore. She backed up a step. "Because it's not in my nature anymore to want that."

"Bravo." Suddenly he moved, coming at her faster than she expected, grabbing her by the arms, his face morphing into the monster--into the vampire. "And what is my nature, Christine? What do I want?"

She knocked his arms away and kicked out, but he had already jumped back. His face changed back to human.

"At the end of the day, love, I'm a vampire. You'd be wise to remember that." He stood up. "I'm making you a simple offer. Your life or Emma's. Which will it be?"

She smiled. "I think it'll be yours."

"Then it's Emma's. Don't say you couldn't have stopped this."

"David, why is Emma so important to you? Have you ever stopped to think about that?"

He turned around. The glee in his expression took her aback. "That's right. I haven't told you the truth yet." He smiled. It was a cutting expression.

"The truth?"

"About why Emma matters."

"I know why she matters. She matters because you loved her and you hate her for still being a watcher."

He paced away from her. "Did your beloved Jim tell you that I was brought into the watcher fold by my uncle?"

She nodded.

"He does tell you everything, doesn't he?" He smiled, this time the expression held a note of wistfulness. "Honesty. It's rare." He looked down. "I'm afraid I wasn't totally honest with him. I neglected to mention just who my uncle is." He looked up at her, his eyes holding her. "Can you guess?"

"No. David."

He laughed. "Yes, my mother's maiden name was Silver. Dear old Uncle Kevin. Did Emma forget to mention that to you?"

Christine looked down.

"Another lie." He moved closer to her. "How many before you stop trusting her?"

Christine backed away. "I think I'll just start telling myself that everything I hear from everyone is a lie. How's that?"

"Whatever works. Did you know that Kevin's in love with Emma? She's never sussed it out as far as I can tell. But he is mad for her. I've known it forever." He smiled. "Emma was a powerful ally against him. It hurt him to have her leading the opposition with me. It hurt him even worse to know she was in my bed, not his." He smiled. "I never loved her."

"I don't believe you."

"Oh, believe it. I'd do anything to hurt Kevin." He laughed. "Why do you think I look out for you? He hates you. He hates you more than any slayer he's ever known. If I didn't think killing Emma would hurt him even more, I'd turn you now just to see his face when he realizes his slayer nemesis has joined the opposing team."

"David. No. I don't believe any of this. You do care. About Emma, about me. Laura."

"Don't bring her up. She's dead and nothing will change that."

"But you still feel something when you think about her."

He took a step toward her. "I do. I feel rage. She should never have been brought in. They should have left her alone, called but untrained. She could have led a normal life."

"It doesn't work that way." Christine thought of Sachiko Nogura. "There's no safe place if you're the slayer."

He laughed. "Do you think I've been asleep the whole time I've been here? You think I don't know that Silver and quite a few others are looking for exactly that? The safe place. What's it called? Oh yes, Kirsu." He leaned in. "I heard rumors all through my watcher years. The place of the dead slayers." He took another step toward her. "Tell me, darling. Have you died already? Have you been there?"

She reached back, brought the phaser out.

"Won't work. Not on me. Not on my body armor. What now, Christine?" He took the last few steps, pushed up against her.

He didn't even try to stop her as she brought the weapon up. She pushed it in close on his neck, fired and dragged it along his skin.

"Ouch!" He jumped away. "What in hell were trying to do?"

"Behead you." She moved forward, studied the cut. It was barely past the first few layers of skin. "It would have taken a while. Perhaps you could hold still and let me try again?"

He began to laugh.

She put the phaser away. "Buffy used a utility knife once. That had to take some time."

"You're not Buffy."

She stalked toward him. "No. I'm not. I'm more like Faith. You want to see my darkness, David?"

"Yes, I would like to see it." He pulled out his own phaser.

She was moving before he had finished the motion, her leg going up, kicking out, knocking the phaser against the wall and down the hall. "We're even." She felt an unnatural focus take over. Let this be the end. Let them fight here and leave the others out of it. She smiled, knew it was a feral expression. "Let's finish this the old way."

He backed up. "I think not." He moved toward the door. "When we meet again, we'll be enemies."

"Newsflash, David. We've always been enemies. The fact that I like you doesn't change that."

He nodded, smiled at her. "You've come a long way since we met. I'm proud of you."

"I hope you still say that when I'm killing you."

His smile turned darker. "I imagine the fact that you're getting stronger and stronger is driving Kevin nuts." He laughed, turned to the door. "Sleep well, love. Don't think of me, stealing into your bedroom, leaning down..." He shot her a look. "I want you to think over my offer. I give you till tomorrow night."

"My answer won't change."

"Perhaps not." He stared at her. "I do like you. I do care. Even if you hadn't worked so well for my plans, I'd have still liked you."

"That makes me feel very special. Now get out, you're not welcome."

He opened the door. "It doesn't work that way, darling. But Jim should be able to track down the spell that uninvites a vampire. It might not work though in this case; I was invited in by the owner, after all."

"Get out."

"I'm going." He walked through the door, no evidence of any hurry in his stride.

She pulled out her communicator, buzzed Jim.

He answered immediately. "Kirk here."

"Jim?"

Her voice must have been shakier than she realized. "Chris. What's wrong?"

"He was here. David. In my place."

"You invited him in?"

"No. My monstrous landlady did."

"I'm on my way now. There's nothing going on here. And the sun's almost up."

"I'll meet you. Can I stay at your place?"

"You don't even have to ask." There was a long silence. "Do you?"

She laughed. "I'll wear a big cross so you'll know I'm not a vampire."

"Okay."

She knew that neither of them was joking. She went into her bedroom, grabbed her gaudiest cross and put it on. It hung low, made a small rubbing sound as it moved against the other necklace--the invisible necklace. She touched the necklace, felt for Laura's ring.

"Which David do I believe in?"

If Laura had any answers, she wasn't telling them to Christine.

She closed her eyes. The twists in the various tales she'd been told were making her dizzy. She felt like sitting out the next few rounds--only if she did, Emma would die. That was the one thing she knew David meant. He would kill her friend.

She pulled off her uniform, changed into something comfortable and put the uniform into the refresher. She put a clean one in a bag for the morning and threw in the other things she'd need. Going back into the main room, she grabbed her crossbow and more stakes, then picked up the flowers and carried them downstairs. She pounded on Rhatigan's door.

"Oh, it's you," the landlady said. She did not look happy at being woken so early in the morning. "I suppose you're just getting in? The hours you keep, I'm surprised they don't drum you out of the fleet."

Christine stifled a yawn. Woman had a small point. Fortunately, it was the weekend. She could sleep in...just not in her own bed. She thrust the bouquet at Rhatigan. "Here. These are from William's cousin. For being so nice to him." She didn't try to moderate the dislike in her voice.

The woman actually simpered. "Flowers for me? He seemed like such a nice boy."

Christine decided not to tell her it was a funeral bouquet. Let her house smell like a mortuary if it made her happy--it would certainly give Christine a chuckle. "In the future, Mrs. Rhatigan, I'd appreciate it if you didn't enter my apartment without notice."

"It's my building."

"There are still rules."

The woman smiled, smugly. "Your lease is up soon."

"I'm shipping out soon too. I won't be around much longer to bother you."

"Oh, if you can't sign for another year, then you won't be around at all. I don't rent month-to-month." She smiled sweetly. "I'll need sixty days notice or I'm keeping the damage deposit." She shut the door in Christine's face. Hard.

Resisting the urge to kick the door in just on general principles, Christine hefted her bags and hurried out into the night. It felt infinitely safer than her apartment did.

-----------------------

Kirk forced himself to slow down. Chris was fine. She hadn't been hurt. At least, she hadn't sounded like she'd been hurt.

He started walking faster again, then slowed as he saw her round the corner. He waited for her, pushing the violin case back and taking her bag from her.

She smiled as he did it. He shook his head--they both knew she was stronger.

"Humor me," he said. "Let me play the gentleman."

Her eyes softened; he could see her visibly relax.

"You are the gentleman. It's a good deal of your charm."

"Then there's my good looks and sparkling wit."

"Not to mention your ability to accessorize." She touched the violin case. "How is our baby?"

"Charged and ready to go. All we need is our vampire."

She looked down.

"You okay?" He reached out and touched her cross, lifting it and letting it sit on the exposed skin of her throat. "No sizzle."

She moved closer. "No. No sizzle."

"You don't mind if I just check," he said as he pushed her shirt back a bit, inspecting her neck. "All clear."

She nodded, but there was no humor in her eyes. She looked exhausted.

"Let's go home."

"Okay." She walked next to him, seemingly lost in thought. Finally, she looked over at him. "No action at Emma's tonight?"

"Nope. Maybe the slayers were resting up."

"It won't be up to them, Jim."

"No?"

"No. It will be up to us." She seemed determined, even a bit angry.

"What happened tonight?"

"I woke up?" When he frowned, she sighed. "David is Silver's nephew."

"My god. The uncle that put him into this life. That's why he's after Emma. Silver's in love with her."

She turned to look at him. "Why does everyone seem to know that but me? And Emma."

He smiled. "Silver came to see me today." He saw her face and hurried to say, "I was going to tell you all about it during our long and boring stakeout. But you never showed, remember?"

She nodded, appeared mollified. "What did he want?"

"For me to keep you out of this. He's afraid that you'll get Emma killed."

"He may be right. David offered me a choice. My life for Emma's." She took a deep breath. "I'm supposed to be thinking over whether I want to be turned." She looked over at him quickly. "I don't have to think about it. But it means he'll go after her--soon. We have to be outside her house well before dark tonight. I don't think he's going to wait."

He smiled softly. "She doesn't have a landlady to let him in. Doesn't the council own the house?"

Chris nodded. "It won't matter. He'll find a way. He always does."

"So do you. You always find a way to win."

She turned to him, a surprised look on her face. "That should be my line to you. You're the one who always wins. Not me."

He shook his head. "I think you underestimate yourself." He thought of Nogura's suggestion. "Have you ever wanted to be CMO?"

"CMO of what? A garbage scow?" She laughed, then saw his expression. "Of the Enterprise? You're kidding, right?"

He shook his head.

She frowned. "Why would I be CMO? I'm not ready for that."

"Because Nogura would like you to lead the search for Kirsu. Aboard the Enterprise."

She stopped walking. "Is this a joke?"

He shook his head. "He thinks you can find it. He seems less convinced that you can deliver it."

"What changed his mind?"

Kirk smiled. "Maybe not a what but a who. I think Lori has been working on him. Trying to make him back off. She wants it too."

"True." She sighed. "Sometimes, I wish I'd never heard of Kirsu."

"I know." He nodded to the doorman as the man hit the switch to open the door for them long before they reached it. "Thanks, John."

Chris smiled at him. Kirk noticed that she got a warm smile and a nod back.

John smiled at him too. "Have a nice morning, Admiral."

Kirk realized his doorman had begun to take the screwy hours he kept for granted. It had been a long time since John had looked at all surprised at his comings and goings. "You too."

The elevator was waiting for them and they rode it up in silence. His apartment was warm and welcoming.

"No more smell. Except incense. Smells nice." She smiled at him.

"I've been trying to practice at Weasel's instead of here. Let him live with the reek."

She laughed, set her weapons by the door and took her bag from him, carrying it to the couch.

He moved it to the bedroom. "You take the bed."

She stood at the doorway. "We've shared the bed in the past."

He smiled. "Then why'd you take the couch?"

"So you'd move my bag into the bedroom. Gallant to the end. If we share, you could hold me. It'd be nice to be held."

"I'll hold you in the living room. Safer, I think."

She laughed. "Isn't the living room where we did that spell?" She took a deep breath, let it out slowly. And loudly.

He gulped. "Maybe the bathroom? No special memories there."

"Give us time."

Her expression was one notch down from seductive, and he knew she could ratchet it up instantly if she wanted to.

"Chris."

"Jim." She didn't move out of the doorway, not even when he walked up to her.

He stopped, sighed as he looked at her. "No games, Chris."

She moved instantly.

He walked past her and sat down on the couch.

She moved to the window and stared out. "This isn't a game to me. Not what we have. It's real and honest and I'm not playing with that." She turned to look at him. "I want you. I know you want me and that you think you shouldn't have me. I don't fully agree with your reasoning, but I respect your decision. Mostly." She smiled when he laughed softly.

"Come here." He held out his hand.

She walked to the couch, sank down next to him. "I can't hide what I want from you. I won't hide it. Not when we're alone." She cuddled in next to him, her arms around him.

"Okay. You don't have to." He leaned his head back. "I'm tired."

"Me too," she said, moving even closer and putting her head on his chest.

"So you think David will make his move tonight?" He looked out at the window, the sky was light, dawn had come and gone and they'd missed it.

But he'd felt it. Like he had every morning since he'd been bitten. A strange new awareness. He'd never told Chris that. He'd never told anyone that. Hell, until this moment, he'd refused to even admit it to himself.

"Chris?" He looked down at her.

She was fast asleep.

He reached over her, pulled the throw down from the back of the couch and covered her up.

She made a low sound, moved in sleep.

He leaned down, kissed her forehead, laid his hand over hers where it rested on his chest.

She stirred, looked up at him sleepily. She smiled, such a sweet smile. He reached over and stroked her cheek.

"Go back to sleep."

She moaned, a short, soft sound. An unbearably sexy sound. Their eyes met. Hers were so sleepy.

He wondered if his were as lost as he felt. If they showed any of the longing that filled him.

For a moment her expression became sad. She smiled gently. "A gentleman to the bitter end," she whispered, shaking her head slightly. Then she lay her head back down and closed her eyes.

She was asleep again quickly.

He watched her for a long time before sleep came for him.

End part 1 of 2